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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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haleem (or halim) an important and unusual dish which is known under that name in Iran, Afghanistan, and India and as harisa in Turkey and the eastern Arab world. (Harisa means ‘pounded’, and in N. Africa it refers instead to a paste of pounded spices; see harissa.) Haleem features either barley or wheat with meat in a porridge-like soup. Margaret Shaida (1992) says the following about it:

It is said that this dish, like many others, was invented by the sixth century Persian King Khosrow and that when the Moslems conquered Persia a century later, it became a firm favourite of the Prophet. Its fame and popularity were thus assured and it spread all over the Middle East.

In many Arab countries today it is known as harriseh, and is indeed still sometimes called that in the southern regions of Persia, where it has long been regarded as the finest winter breakfast dish. The specialist restaurants that make barley porridge start their preparations in the evening and stir the porridge through the night to ensure the right consistency. Their first customers arrive well before dawn.